If you’re a long-time cook like me who reads cookbooks like others read novels or travel guides, you’ve got shelves of cookbooks in your house – under the bed, in the kitchen, the bathroom, the office, filling up an unused cat bed, and stacked in closets. You get rid of some now and then, but find yourself picking up the ones for 50 cents (I can’t believe I found a stall full at the WPB Fairgrounds Flea Market last week!) that you can’t pass up on a bet.
You find bookstores like Chuckles Bookstore in Hobe Sound on Bridge Road that has a room full to browse. And those old comb-bound community cookbooks at every church sale and thrift shop – well, no contest. One-in-a-million finds for recipes like souse, or whoopie pies long before anyone had heard of them – or the obscure Cheerwine cake are to be had, usually for 25 cents.
Yes, most cookbooks – new and used – are now available thanks to the Internet. But you have to shelve them, hunt down favorite recipes in them, then print them out, and spread out the sheets on the counter – and kill a lot more trees and contribute to the carbon footprint on earth by having them shipped to you.
The physical books are no better on a kitchen counter, they’re often awkward – they get food splattered and you can never find what you want in them rapidly – especially if the primary recipe sends you to a secondary recipe in the back of the book – I hate that.
Cue the new generation of readers
The Kindle Fire and Nook Color eBook, are new in the market this year.
Do you need one? Not if you’re a page-turner and care that the photo is right there beside you as you follow directions and stick to one cookbook per recipe. And you aren’t a curious cook. And if you’re neat as a pin in the kitchen and never splatter.
But if you’re the type who searches recipes on the web, or browses secondary recipes in cookbooks, or emails your cousin in the middle of cooking, or would love to take your cookbook library wherever you go, then consider one of these wifi-enabled readers. We’re not talking tablets here – these are readers first, and wifi/browser, email and apps secondary.
But – for under $200 compared to the $450 and up for the tablets – they’re a deal breaker for many.
The World Wide Web of cookbooks
Both have wifi, so when a recipe calls for clarifying butter, you can zip out to Google and find out how long the butter should cook and separate before you pull it off the fire. Or email your sister and tell her if mom used vanilla in her Thanksgiving Sweet potato casserole.
You can search for a similar recipe in another cookbook after you’ve found one in your cookbook library – accessible from anywhere in the “Cloud” — if you’re on a Kindle Fire. Gmail is no sweat, either, so consult your Italian bro and both of you can stream the A+ movie Big Night (1996) to cook a timpano along with Tony Shaloub and Stanley Tucci. Or watch my favorite of all time movies, Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory – ABC Stage 67, starring Geraldine Page.
The new NOOK Color eBookreader is similar, though tied to Barnes & Noble – for book readers, this is probably a first choice. Best part: Check out any book on Barnes & Noble’s vast lists for free. That means you can browse cookbooks in your pajamas before you buy.
Since cookbook readers are typically travel and culture readers, you have those book genres at your fingertips as well. So when I’m reading Patricia Wells’ The Paris Cookbook, I can call up a map of Paris to see what area the recipe is from – or the restaurant or market she mentions. Isn’t the web grand that way?
I want other suggestions for books – I like the Barnes & Noble reviews from other cooks, many of whom I recognize.
Readers and sticky fingers in a kitchen
What about using these things in a kitchen, though? They rely on touch-screens – and good cooks have sticky and oily and fishy fingers.
Cooks who touch faucets and knobs and mixer handles already know the value of plastic wrap – one layer of plastic wrap on these things as you cook prevents dough trails and sticky egg whites from gumming up your kitchen. You can spend bucks on a fancy Kindle Fire Anti-Glare Screen Protector 2-Pack with Cleaning Cloth by Marware – Lifetime Warranty that protects the screen, but a roll of Saran Wrap does just as well and can be replaced every 5 minutes if you need to, for less than a penny each time. (And it will wrap your faucet handles, your light switch, oven knobs, mixer handle, cover your counter top, help roll out pie crusts and more.)
So wrap your reader (or tablet) in one tight layer of plastic wrap (Saran Wrap is heavier than most), and prevent any mishaps. Your touch makes works just fine through the wrap. Tip: Tape the wrap to the back using duct tape, and it’ll be waterproof, too – that dog bowl is miraculously always right under you when you drop it – I know from experience.
(Crazy boater’s electronics tip: If you’re ever using this on a boat, beach, pier or cooking in the Everglades – do the same thing. Wrap it in plastic, then put it into a zip-locked bag, blown up before you seal it. It will not only float, but keep the thing from from drowning. Bigger hint – duct tape a neon orange plastic flag on one side of the bag, so you can see it bobbing in the water. Write your name on the bag with a permanent pen so if some honest person finds it, you’re back in business – if they haven’t used a fish hook to snag it, that is.)
Share your reviews as a cook
And if you recommend any cookbooks, speak up, too!